NAIJA POETRY 26: The Child Before A Mirror of Strangers

As if you were never here before,
As if you have forgotten that you were
What we are, but you, self-betrayed
Raise walls of deafness to deflect
Pleas of innocence. As if the world you
Taught has lost its axis, ceased to spin.
As if you have forgotten when you watched
Entranced, the dance of leaves on stream currents,
Your image wobbling in their depths. As if
You never chased or raced to leave your shadow.
As if you never waved to shapes of folklore
Monsters, heroes, morphing in the clouds.

As if you ever peddled differences
Among your kind at that first, guileless sight,
Till knowing winks and whispers, otherness words –
Pauper, pagan, dirty, low-born – banned
Partners-in-prank of yesterday from closeness –
Hence fiends from outer space, no longer human.

As if your arms, drug empowered or orphaned,
Were ever forced to cradle ponderous arms,
Senses fused to death commands, as if
Your shoulders caved under abnormal loads
To earn a pittance and a night of slums
Where the sun is total stranger. As if

A child is not the unlisted heritage
Of time, the one perennial season. As if
My presence fails to image what you were,
Mirrored in trustful faces – like the world
Itself a trusting planet, an eternity that
Spins in human hands – as if, as if

Childhood were out of fashion. As if, as if….

AUTHOR: Wole Soyinka (in full, Akínwándé Olúwọlé Babátúndé Ṣóyíinká); born in Abeokuta within Ogun State of Nigeria on Friday13 July 1934.

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